Wolves, crossbows on tap at Capitol

St. Paul — The controversy about wolf hunting and trapping has become one of the issues at the forefront of this year’s legislative session, which kicked off last week, but lawmakers will have plenty else to occupy their attention, too.

A number of bills related to conservation, fishing, and hunting had been introduced as of earlier this week, and hearings on some already had been set.

Among the bills that have been introduced:

• Sen. Foung Hawj, DFL-St. Paul, has introduced SF 2256, which contains a number of provisions related to wolves. Rep. Jason Isaacson, DFL-Shoreview, has the companion in the House.

The bill would require the DNR to conduct an annual wolf census; create materials aimed at reducing conflicts between wolves and humans; and creation of a task force to review the DNR’s wolf management plan every year.

The DNR also would have to close federally recognized tribal lands to hunting and trapping wolves, if requested by tribal leadership. And baiting for wolves would be prohibited within 10 miles of tribal lands where wolf hunting and trapping is prohibited.

Finally, the bill would suspend the wolf season for an unspecified period of time. Among other things, the DNR would have to “provide comprehensive, publicly accessible data of all known wolf deaths and illnesses in the state …” The agency also would have to “conduct a study of public sentiment toward wolves, including issues related to intolerance.”

• SF 2137, introduced by Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, would appropriate $2 million from the Game and Fish Fund for cost-share grants to local recreational shooting clubs. Clubs that receive grants would have to be open to the public “at reasonable times and for a reasonable fee on a walk-in basis.”

Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, will carry the bill in the House, said Gary Botzek, executive director of the Minnesota Conservation Federation. The MCF is pushing the bill.

“Every organization that I know of – including MCF – is trying to get kids out of the house, off the couch, or off the computer, and get outside,” he said. “What’s better than a shooting range scenario, where they’re being guided by high school coaches?”

Indeed, much of the impetus for the bill is from the tremendous growth the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League has experienced.

• Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, has introduced the annual game and fish bill, which is SF 2227.

The bill contains a number of provisions – many technical in nature, or the elimination of unnecessary words in state statute – but it also contains some items that would have a more immediate impact.

The bill, for example, would greatly reduce the cost of lifetime spearing licenses. For people between the ages of 16 and 50, for example, the cost of a lifetime license would drop from $372 to $100. Also, people would not be allowed to remove a fox from a den, or trap foxes within 300 feet of a fox den, from April 1 to Aug. 1.

• Hansen has a bill, HF 2628, that would result in the use of weigh stations and rest areas for “watercraft decontamination and other activities to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.”

• SF 2018, introduced by Saxhaug, would allow people over the age of 60 to “take deer, bear, turkey, or rough fish by crossbow during the respective regular archery seasons.”

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, has the companion in the House.

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